How does an airline that doesn’t exist; doesn’t fly in hostile territory; doesn’t transport illicit cargo of any kind including weapons and narcotics; and definitely doesn’t take the no-no jobs from nefarious types that the ‘real’ airlines knock back…
…How does such a non-existent organisation find staff?
By hiring fuck-ups. (Strangely prescient given the presence of a pre-rehab Robert Downey Jr and a pre-career destroying racist meltdown Mel Gibson.)
Been kicked out of your plane? Denied work due to prior infractions? Deemed entirely unemployable? Welcome aboard Air America son. Pick up your set of clumsy quips and details of your quirky personality in the induction pack.
Air America is a shoestring operation on a Velcro budget, resulting in b grade equipment, negligible funding, shonky management and unreliable and jaded staff. It is the staff who are obviously at the pointy end, the ones who must deal with the limitations imposed by the other negative factors. They deal with the imminent danger and sense of doom in the same way everyone does on film; drugs, alcohol and bullshit macho posturing.
Gene (the practising racist and shitty husband) is the old hand. He’s seen everything and turned a blind eye a million times. He just wants one last big score to let him retire in peace. Billy (the former junkie) is the young buck, the guy who in the States was a loose cannon.
Only Air America doesn’t fly in America. And there are already many loose cannons in Laos, where operations take place. So many loose cannons that Billy is instantly over-awed by the carefree attitudes, gonzo tactics and the general willingness to party-hearty in all of the various forms.
The rest are the rest. Chest beating, threat spewing, dangerous chemical imbibing nutjobs who choose perpetual inebriation over worrying about how messed up their lot is.
Gene, Billy and the guys fly a few missions to show just how cut rate the operation is and how fraught with danger their everyday lives are. This is momentarily amusing but possesses finite entertainment value. So the film injects a truly evil Vietnamese drug smuggling General (apparently the myriad other guys smuggling drugs and arms were just ‘mostly’ evil) and a US Senator looking to ‘smooth some rough edges’ to gain positive publicity at home.
And it was at this point that the already doomed flight went into a tailspin from which it could not return. No sooner do these couple of impediments to fun and frivolity arrive than everyone suddenly recognises that their lives were being wasted. A couple of noble deeds and character resurrections later and we’re supposed to emerge bullish about the human condition.
…aaaahhhhh not so much. Air America was a B movie attempting to cash in on post Lethal Weapon Gibson’s star power and to announce Robert Downey Jr to the world. It only served to show that Mel wasn’t so interesting without Danny Glover or a wasteland to patrol, and it would be nearly two decades and a big metal suit before RDJ would find mega stardom.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. A film that is as reliable and solid as the titular airline.